when i think about my favourite areas of london, they're mostly all ones really close to home. like, literally, near my house. last time, i shared my love of shoreditch - an eclectic hub of london's creatives with a thriving street-art and farmer's market scene, and a twenty minute commute door to door. this time, i want to talk about the first area of london i fell in love with, and have probably spent the most amount of my spare time in: bankside.
from london bridge to waterloo along the river, there is a gorgeous stretch of london scenery. on a good day, taking that walk along the southbank of the thames is the absolute best way to spend an hour; soaking in the views, drinking coffee, and people watching. and, depending on what time of the year, or what day of the week you're visiting, there's always something else to keep you busy. like:
flat iron square
the newest street-food market on the scene is flat iron square, which has popped up in the last month or so in seven of the reclaimed arches and one of the listed buildings previously owned by southern rail, a short stroll from borough market. so far, there are seven food stalls, three whole restaurants, another three street food trucks, five fully-licensed bars, and a number of live music and entertainment venues within. i mean, showing off much? the director tells us that the car park is likely to be used for an outdoor cinema, an urban festival, or something cool like that come the summer months, but until then, the renovations to the arches are seeing more and more areas opening up to the public.
after a whistlestop tour of the traders, i can tell you this: you want to try the aussie pancakes from where the pancakes are, the pad thai and satay skewers from ekachai, the cinnamon buns from burnt lemon bakery, any of the pizzas (and garlic sauce) from baz&fred, and the squid tepenade from edu. the ethos behind flat iron square is to create a cool and casual space for food, entertainment and culture to blend together - an ethos i can definitely get on board with!
as mentioned, the flat iron square redevelopment has seen an influx of new, independent theatre and event venues open up in and around it, which join an impressive collection of already well-loved venues and theatres along the bankside. located in the heart of southwark, and totally accessible from tube and trains on both sides of the tracks, theatres such as menier, the bunker, the southwark playhouse and shakespeare's globe are all in walking distance of some of south london's biggest tourist hot-spots.
with the addition of the omeara space inside flat iron, offering south london a quirky new gig venue with a variety of experiences from indie club nights, comedy, burlesque and more, the arches are seeing a lot more life in them than ever before. some of the rooms are either not quite finished, or being used for totally random things, like leather good label tinct who are using one of the spaces as a group workshop space, teaching visitors everything from animal taxidermy to floral painting, and more. then there's the weekly flea market, with curated treasures from around the world. or, you know, the joe strummer exhibition, if you're that way inclined (who isn't?).
the low line
you've heard of the manhattan high line, but what about the london low line? enabled by better bankside, the low line focuses on the railway arches that have been part of bankside for over 150 years. the point of the project is regeneration; the low line route has been blocked for foot traffic through the development and redevelopment of the area over time, and now - thanks to a fab suggestion from a local resident, the aim is to open it up and make the whole walkway that runs along the base of the arches accessible by foot.
the low line project aims to encourage commercial development, while continuing to grow the cultural diversity of the neighbourhood. flat iron square and union yard arches are at the centre of the regeneration, hoping to draw a new crowd into one of the oldest boroughs. giving small, independent businesses the opportunity to thrive and draw in new customers will really cement south london as another of the capital's cultural hubs.
london is so full of history, and this neighbourhood is no different. looking up as you walk along the low line will serve you with reminders of that at almost every corner. victorian architecture, warehouses and factory sites remain, their original signs still visible on brick facades - if you know where to find them. along ewer street you will find a dedication to those who died in the shelter bombing in the blitz. bollards in the area are recycled military cannons, and were used as boundary lines between the met police and "the clink" - the part of the city not governed by the police.
further east you'll find crossbones - an old burial ground with an incredible history. for hundreds of years it was known to be the outcasts' graveyard, in london's poorest and most violent neighbourhoods. according to the locals though, it is actually the cemetery for the "winchester geese" - the medieval sex workers licensed by the bishop of winchester to work in the brothels within "the liberty of the clink". or, the "prozzy graveyard" as we like to call it it. for ages it's been nothing but a deserted garden, but it's also undergone some regeneration over the last year or so, and has now been reopened to visitors. check before you go, because it's all voluntarily run, but well worth the visit.
as mentioned, there is a loooootta lotta culture around the river, particularly bankside, but nothing more iconic than the tate modern, all ugly brown and bricky, pointing out of the sky. i'm not a big "art" fan, so i can't say the tate is somewhere i visit often myself, but visitors travelling from southwark station to the tate modern and the river can follow the orange painted street furniture and lamp posts connecting the two, as a sort of "yellow brick road" adventure en route. failing that - look to the sky; that tall brick monstrosity is where you're headed.
there's also the occasional street art piece scrawled under arches or across roads for visitors to the area to peruse as they take in the rest of what bankside has to offer, but basically, it's just a really nice, historical patch of london that somehow hasn't lost too much of its charm while also gaining a whole lot more. better bankside have done an incredible job in transforming the neighbourhood and reclaiming a patch of the borough, back to the borough.
what are your favourite sites around bankside?